Progress On My 2015 Resolutions
New year’s resolutions seem to be going out of fashion, too many times they are neglected before any progress has been made, but I like them. I print them out and stick them on my desk wall and read them every month or so. They provide a good way for me to assess my life and do a bit of re-design. Last year’s resolutions were particularly demanding ones and as I was writing them I remember already feeling quite defeatist about the prospects for success, but I proved myself mostly wrong as we shall see:
Make my health my first job – achieved!
Last year I decided that recovering my health had to be a top priority, that meant that when a conflict arose between health and work, health and money, or health and easy living etc. I needed to choose health. It also meant that I needed to treat recovering my health professionally and strategically to put in the effort and discipline, just as I would in my paid job. I pretty much achieved this.
I decided to retire, which gave me the time and energy to work on my health and I made a concerted effort to eat well, to move more, to relax and to try and find ways of coping without as many medications as possible. All of these have been successful. I eat a huge amount of vegetables and berries now, less meat, only organic and free range animal products and much less sugar. I move around for most of the day, doing a mix of gentle exercise and cardio with a few stretches thrown in each morning. I’m much more relaxed, more mindful and finally find time to listen to music, I try to be kind to myself and realistic though, I’ve not been able to recover my health fully and it’s unlikely that I will. In fact I continue to have as many flares as previous years and I’ve actually developed new problems but I’m coping with them better and I’m doing what I can to over-come them, to keep fighting, but without becoming obsessive about it.
Hopefully I’ve not been selfish in the way I’ve approached this, I’ve worked hard to make sure my family come a close second, I spent a month looking after Jennie at the start of the year, I’ve provided a lot of support to Debbie to allow her to focus on her teaching career and I’ve done more and more of the home making as the year has progressed, I’ve tried to be useful to the community and more compassionate.
Live a more balanced day – achieved!
I’m very pleased with the morning routine that I’ve developed over the years. I get in a lot of movement, stretching, relaxation, socialising and reading, but my afternoons and evenings were almost always spent at home, exhausted. This year I wanted to change that and I succeeded.
Most days I still stick to my favoured morning routine but now about three days a week I go out for the whole day, hiking or cycling. When I’m staying in St Annes in the afternoons I will almost always go out, either shopping, to admire the sunset or to get in a quick cycle ride. In the evenings I will often go swimming or for an evening walk. Debbie and I almost always go out for an evening meal once a week and often go to the cinema too. Now that I’m doing the cooking in the evening I try to make a real effort to do ‘special’ family meals at least a few times each week.
Taking a nap after lunch has been an important part of providing me with the extra energy to get out of the house in the afternoon and I highly recommend it, especially in the summer, I love curling up on the sofa in a sunny conservatory with the doors wide open for a 45 minute nap.
I planned to start swimming in the mornings and I did try it for about a month, but it meant getting up too early, so I switched to the evenings instead and it’s been wonderful and much easier to stick to.
Get my 25 year old body back and keep it – partially achieved!
Given all of the focus on health in my life in some ways it’s ridiculous that I’m over weight and under-muscled, well maybe not. Given the health challenges that I’m battling with I’ve concluded that I do pretty well, but I decided I could do better and I have, achieving my 25 year old level of fitness in every area though has proved illusive.
I’ve managed to loose 4lbs and probably have another four still to loose, but my body fights with me to hang on to those few extra pounds. I’ve decided to stop fighting, to let my body find it’s natural set point, who cares whether I have a six pack at my age – or any age – what matters is that my body is at peace with itself. Provided I’m exercising regularly, eating well, not over eating and not hungry I’ve decided to accept the way that I am.
I’ve had to come to terms with the fact that my body no longer responds positively to intense exercise. Instead of getting stronger I flare, instead of rebuilding I become weaker and exhausted. I put this down to low levels of certain hormones caused by some of the medications that I’ve been forced to use over the years. Progress then has to be slow, I need to be more patient and allow my body to heal before it can grow stronger.
I tried high intensity strength exercises, but that was too much for me, causing two flares. I tried very gradually increasing my swimming and that worked, going from 10 lengths a day to 52 this week. I’ve steadily pushed myself to do longer hikes and more steps each day and I can now comfortably do 15,000 steps a day and 10 mile hikes a few days a week. I’ve not had as much progress with cycling as the endless rain and winds have discouraged me towards the end of the year, but I can now easily cycle for an hour on my exercise bike, up from twenty minutes at the beginning of the year.
I’m not quite at my 25 year old level of fitness, but I’m pretty happy with what I’ve achieved so far and I think I can get better, but I need to accept my limits.
Spend more time with family and friends – achieved!
I planned to take and make opportunities to be more social, left to my natural inclination I would avoid social contact and then be depressed by the lack of it, but if I push myself to do more of it I invariably end up being pleased I made the effort. This year I did surprisingly well at this and it was very rewarding. Since I retired I’ve made a special effort to keep in contact with my friends at work, to spend time with Debbie and the kids and my local friends, to meet up for breakfasts, lunches, walks and bike rides. I typically spend two to three days a week now with people and the remaining four on my own, of course I spend most every day with people in some capacity: with the regulars at my cafes, chatting to people I meet out walking and with my family in the evenings. This 3/4 balance seems about right, giving me lots of freedom and time to think, but also lots of time with others.
Learn to travel light and cheap– mostly achieved!
I like to travel, but I normally travel with a lot of stuff and I travel expensive (cars, hotels etc.). This year wanted to learn how to travel light and travel cheap and I’ve made some progress. Steph has taught me how to pack light and I’ve made several trips now with just a backpack full of stuff and with each trip the pack has got lighter and then smaller. I’ve actually done several overnight trips to London with a ten litre pack. Getting the new iPhone 6S, charging case and a HDMI adapter has helped with this as it’s displaced the need to carry a laptop and I now also travel with sachets of freeze dried green smoothie which makes it easier to eat cheaply and healthily. I’ve travelled more by train and coach, even going to Amsterdam by Megabus, but I’ve not convinced myself that I can do without my own car yet! As for travelling cheap I’ve spent an enjoyable night in a youth hostel with friends, although I don’t think I would enjoy it much on my own, Premier Inns are still my favoured option.
Start to draw again – Failed!
As I move in the direction of a simple life I’ve come to appreciate many simple pleasures and there can be none simpler than drawing. I used to draw quite a bit in my twenties, but the arrival of children put an end to it. I have the time now to start again, all I need is the determination to push through the early learning phase when everything I draw is embarrassing. Unfortunately I’ve failed to do even a single drawing this year and I’m not sure why, each month I convince myself to start and then I just find excuses to do other things. It’s remarkable how busy I’ve been in retirement, but that’s a feeble excuse really. I’ve considered scheduling a class, but I’m enjoying my freedom too much to do that at the moment. This is definitely a resolution that I will be carrying over to 2016!
The photo that illustrates this post is from one of my regular evening walks along the beach, this one with Chris. Evening walks, especially in spring and summer have been a particular delight this year.